Zicutake USA Comment | Search Articles

#History (Education) #Satellite report #Arkansas #Tech #Poker #Language and Life #Critics Cinema #Scientific #Hollywood #Future #Conspiracy #Curiosity #Washington
 Smiley face

[Calculate SHA256 hash]
 Smiley face
Zicutake BROWSER
 Smiley face Encryption Text and HTML
Aspect Ratio Calculator
[HTML color codes]
 Smiley face Conversion to JavaScript
[download YouTube videos in MP4, FLV, 3GP, and many more formats]

 Smiley face Mining Satoshi | Payment speed

 Smiley face
Online BitTorrent Magnet Link Generator




Skin pigmentation is far more complex than thought

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 09:00 AM PST

Many studies have suggested that the genetics of skin pigmentation are simple. A small number of known genes, it is thought, account for nearly 50 percent of pigment variation. However, these studies rely on data sets that heavily favor northern Eurasian populations — those that reside mostly in higher latitude regions.

Reporting in the today's issue of Cell, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Stanford University, and Stony Brook University report that while skin pigmentation is nearly 100 percent heritable, it is hardly a straightforward, Mendelian trait. By working closely with the KhoeSan, a group of populations indigenous to southern Africa, the researchers have found that the genetics of skin pigmentation become progressively complex the closer populations reside to the equator, with an increasing number of genes — known and unknown — involved, each making a smaller overall contribution.

"Africa has the greatest amount of phenotypic variability in skin color, and yet it's been underrepresented in large-scale endeavors," said Alicia Martin, a postdoctoral scientist in the lab of Broad Institute member Mark Daly. "There are some genes that are known to contribute to skin pigmentation, but by and large there are many more new genes that have not been discovered."

"We need to spend more time focusing on these understudied populations in order to gain deeper genetic insights," said Brenna Henn, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University and, with Martin, a co-corresponding author.

The paper is a culmination of seven years of research that spanned several institutions, starting with a collaboration between Stellenbosch University in South Africa and Carlos Bustamante's lab at Stanford, where Martin and Henn trained. Martin, Henn, and their colleagues spent a great deal of time with the KhoeSan, interviewing individuals, taking anthropometric measurements (height, age, gender), and using a reflectometer to quantitatively measure skin color. In total, they accumulated data for approximately 400 individuals.

The researchers genotyped each sample, looking at hundreds of thousands of sites across the genome to identify genetic markers linked with pigmentation measure, and sequenced particular areas of interest. They took this information and compared it to a data set that comprised nearly 5,000 individuals representing globally diverse populations throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe.

What they found offers a counter-narrative to the common view on pigmentation.

The prevailing theory is that "directional selection" pushes pigmentation in a single direction, from dark to light in high latitudes and from light to dark in lower latitudes. But Martin and Henn's data showed that the trajectory is more complex. Directional selection, as a guiding principle, seems to hold in far northern latitudes. But as populations move closer to the equator, a dynamic called "stabilizing selection" takes effect. Here, an increasing number of genes begins to influence variability. Only about 10 percent of this variation can be attributed to genes known to affect pigmentation.

In addition, the researchers found some unexpected insights into particular genes associated with pigmentation. A derived mutation in one gene, SLC24A5, is thought to have arisen in Europe roughly 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. However, in the KhoeSan populations it appears at a much higher frequency than recent European admixture alone would suggest, indicating that it has either been positively selected in this population, actually arose in this population, or entered the population through gene flow thousands of years ago. "We're still teasing this apart," said Martin.

They also found that a gene called SMARCA2/VLDLR, which has not previously been associated with pigmentation in humans, seems to play a role among the KhoeSan. Several different variants are all uniquely associated with pigmentation near these genes, and variants in these genes have been associated with pigmentation in animals.

"Southern African KhoeSan ancestry appears to neither lighten nor darken skin," said Martin. "Rather, it just increases variation. In fact, the KhoeSan are approximately 50 percent lighter than equatorial Africans. Ultimately, in northern latitudes pigmentation is more homogenous, while in lower latitudes, it's more diverse — both genetically and phenotypically."

"The full picture of the genetic architecture of skin pigmentation will not be complete unless we can represent diverse populations worldwide," said Henn.

Martin is a member of both the Program in Medical and Population Genetics and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute. This work is part of the Stanley Center's global initiative to ensure that data sets increasingly represent individuals from developing countries.

This research was funded by the Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics. 

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

A passion for nature, in a massive beetle collection

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 07:15 AM PST

For those bitten by the beetle bug, Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) just got a bit more interesting.

Already one of North America's premier natural history collections, with 25 million animal specimens and 4 million beetles, the MCZ recently received a donation of 150,000 beetles from the private collection of the late David Rockefeller, a longtime Harvard benefactor and former Overseer.

Rockefeller, who died in March at age 101, was a businessman who served as chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Chase Manhattan Bank and chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Group.

He was also an avid beetle collector. Biology Professor Brian Farrell, who as curator of entomology oversees the MCZ's 7.5 million-specimen insect collection, became acquainted with Rockefeller 20 years ago through his daughter Eileen Rockefeller Growald, whom Farrell had met decades earlier in his native Vermont.

Farrell recently delivered a lecture on the acquisition at the Geological Lecture Hall in Harvard's Geological Museum building. He described Rockefeller's collection as extraordinary, with 10,000 species from 40 beetle families. Farrell was introduced by Jane Pickering, executive director of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, of which the MCZ is part.

Farrell, who also is director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, traced Rockefeller's collecting career. A summer tutor encouraged him in that area in 1925, and he began collecting a wide variety of insects. Rockefeller eventually focused on beetles, and spent a lifetime exploring their extraordinary diversity.

One out of every four animal species on the planet is a beetle, Farrell said, an abundance likely tied to their association with flowering plants, which themselves are extraordinarily diverse. Rockefeller's donation comes at a time when research has turned up indications of insects being on the decline. A study of flying insects in Germany has shown a 75 percent decline over the last 30 years.

Farrell quoted the writings of Rockefeller and his daughter Eileen as he traced Rockefeller's collecting career from his Harvard years — he graduated in 1936 — to a World War II stint in Algeria and beyond. Rockefeller was attracted to beetles by their orderliness and by the belief that collecting them afforded him of nature's broader workings.

"He was seeing what Darwin saw, evolution in action," Farrell said.

Rockefeller spent the summer of 1933 in Germany, seeing the early changes wrought by its new chancellor, Adolf Hitler. That trip, Farrell said, resulted not only in German beetles being added to Rockefeller's collection, but also in a love of travel that led to his $100 million 2008 donation to Harvard, much of which was dedicated to fostering undergraduate travel.

When Farrell met Rockefeller in 1998, the two shared their interest in beetles, a scientific focus of Farrell. After Rockefeller died, his family made arrangements for the collection to be transferred to Harvard. Farrell traveled to Rockefeller's New York home this fall to oversee the packing and transport of 30 cabinets of specimens.

Collecting, Farrell said, is an expression of a "passionate curiosity" in life that provides a path to learning and understanding the world around us, which ultimately can help the passionate collector find meaning.

"That's really, at the end of the day, all we have in life: meaning," Farrell said.

The David Rockefeller Beetle Collection

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnAwodm99bE" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><img alt="0" src="https://img.youtube.com/vi/xnAwodm99bE/0.jpg" title="How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content " /></a>

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Harvard exec becomes principal for a day at local school

Posted: 30 Nov 2017 04:00 AM PST

Students hopping off the buses at the Jackson/Mann K-8 School in Allston earlier this week were greeted by not one, but two cheerful principals.

The "Principal for a Day," Annie Tomasini, joined Andrew Tuite, Jackson/Mann's actual principal, in welcoming students back from the Thanksgiving break.

Tomasini, the senior director of state, local, and community relations at Harvard University, was at the elementary school as part of the Principal Partners program. The program is run by the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE), a local organization that fosters improvement in the Boston Public Schools (BPS). Each year Boston-area colleges, businesses, media, community leaders, and political leaders partner with local schools and spend the day shadowing principals to "get a firsthand look at the school-improvement investments the district has made and the challenges that remain," according to Principal Partner's website. Participants spend time with students, attend meetings with teachers, and sit in on classes, all in an effort to experience what educators do every day.

"Teachers, administrators, and staff here at the Jackson/Mann, and all across Boston, are making an incredible and meaningful impact on the lives of the children they educate and care for every single day," said Tomasini, who herself is a graduate of the Boston Public School System. "Harvard is honored to once again have the opportunity to connect and partner with the Jackson/Mann, and with all of BPS today and every day."

Annie Tomasini talks to students.
Annie Tomasini, who is a graduate of the Boston Public School System, talks to students during her tenure as principal. Photo by J. Graham Pearsall

Jackson/Mann has more than 700 students, from kindergarten to eighth grade. They speak more than 31 different languages. Seventy-eight percent qualify for subsidized lunch, and 24 percent receive some sort of special education services.

Harvard has a strong partnership with the school. Among the contributions: an intern from the Graduate School of Education's School Leadership Program works directly with Tuite; a group of eighth-graders regularly visit the Ed Portal for its Apprentice Learning program; all seventh-graders come to Harvard's campus to participate in the Project Teach program, which helps them develop a college-bound identity; hundreds of students take part in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program developed by the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; and more than 200 first- and second-grade students will attend a performance of "Charlotte's Web" at the American Repertory Theater in December. Additionally, through its 2014 cooperation agreement with the city of Boston, Harvard provides $12,000 a year to support enrichment opportunities for the students.

"These [enrichment opportunities] have been a huge benefit. The students love them. We love them," said Tuite. "What Harvard has done here has really been fabulous."

Tomasini, who visited a class that recently took advantage of some of the supplemental programs, heard from one kindergarten student: "We went to the Aquarium! I saw a turtle and a really, really big fish! I had so much fun!"

The partnership is equally important to Harvard, which has long collaborated with local schools, particularly in Allston-Brighton and Cambridge. Through its many programs, both in the individual schools and on its own campus, Harvard reaffirms its commitment to the health and improvement of public education, and support for the development of high-quality teachers.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Final beam placed in Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 02:14 PM PST

Rising from behind a partition along Western Avenue in Allston, Harvard's future Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) is taking shape. On Wednesday, the Harvard community, the Turner Construction team, Allston residents, and local representatives gathered for a "topping-off" ceremony to mark the occasion of the last steel beam going into place. When it's completed in 2020, the 500,000-square-foot flagship of the University's expanded campus in Allston will be home to more than 1,800 students, researchers, and faculty — roughly two-thirds of Harvard's fastest-growing School, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Harvard Provost Alan Garber, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and President Drew Faust prepare to give the signal to raise the final beam of the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston.
Harvard Provost Alan Garber '77, Ph.D. '82 (from left), Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and President Drew Faust prepare to give the signal to raise the final beam of the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston.
A soft exosuit is demonstrated.
A soft exosuit is demonstrated by doctoral candidate and research assistant Jaehyun Bae, a member of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, which is developing the technology at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and President Drew Faust greet and thank members of the Turner Construction team.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and President Drew Faust greet and thank members of the Turner Construction team before the final beam is raised.
Panelists seated, from left, Shaun Donovan, Dean Frank Doyle, Stefan Behnisch, and Tracy Palandjian.
Shaun Donovan '87, M.P.A. '95, M.Arch. '95, Harvard's senior strategist for Allston (from left), Dean Frank Doyle of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and SEC architect Stefan Behnisch discuss with Tracy Palandjian '93, M.B.A. '97, what this moment represents for the for the University, the region, and interdisciplinary research more broadly.
Harvard President Drew Faust and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh enter the Charlesview parking lot.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Harvard President Drew Faust arrive on Western Avenue for the topping-off celebration.
Michael Behrisch and Johanna Beyer demonstrate their data visualization technology.
Michael Behrisch (left) and Johanna Beyer, researchers at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, demonstrate their data visualization technology in the i-lab lobby, across the street from the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston.
Members of the construction crew reveal a banner facing Western Avenue.
As the air horns blare, members of the construction crew reveal a banner facing Western Avenue.
Adorned with the traditional tree and flag, the ceremonial final beam is hoisted in the air.
Adorned with the traditional tree and flag, the ceremonial final beam is hoisted in the air to cap the morning's festivities at the Science and Engineering Complex.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Alarming obesity projections in Harvard research

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 02:01 PM PST

If current U.S. trends continue, more than 57 percent of today's youth will be obese at age 35, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The research also found that excess weight in childhood is predictive of adult obesity, even among young children, and that healthy-weight children are the only ones with less than a 50 percent chance of adult obesity. The findings were based on a rigorous simulation model that provides the most accurate predictions to date of obesity prevalence at various ages.

The study will be published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Adult obesity is linked with increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer," said Zachary Ward, an analyst at Harvard Chan School's Center for Health Decision Science and lead author of the study. "Our findings highlight the importance of prevention efforts for all children as they grow up, and of providing early interventions for children with obesity to minimize their risk of serious illness in the future."

The researchers used new computational methods and a novel statistical approach to account for long-term population-level trends in weight gain. They pooled height and weight data from five longitudinal studies of 41,567 children and adults. Using these data, they created 1,000 virtual populations of 1 million youth up to age 19 who were representative of the 2016 U.S. population. They then projected height and weight trajectories from childhood to age 35.

The results showed that obesity will be a significant problem for most American children as they grow older. Of those predicted to have obesity as adults, half will develop it as children, according to the study simulations. Excess weight gained during childhood can set off a trajectory that is difficult to change, the authors said. For example, the study found that of all obese 2-year-olds, three out of four will still be obese at age 35. For children with severe obesity — a condition that currently affects 4.5 million children in the U.S. — the risks are even greater. At age 2, these children have only a one in five chance of not having obesity at age 35; at age 5, that chance drops to just one in 10.

Even children who are not obese face a high risk of adult obesity. The study estimated that for youth ages 2-19 in 2016, more than half will be obese at age 35 — though most currently are not.

The study also found that racial and ethnic disparities in obesity are already present at age 2 and persist into adulthood, with non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics more likely to be obese than whites.

Given the high risk posed to children, senior author Steven Gortmaker, a professor of the practice of health sociology at Harvard Chan School, said, "It is critically important to implement policies and programs to prevent excess weight gain, starting at an early age. Plenty of cost-effective strategies have been identified that promote healthy foods, beverages, and physical activity within school and community settings."

Other Harvard Chan study authors included Stephen Resch, Catherine Giles, and Angie Cradock. 

Funding for the study came from the JPB Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

In family memoir, Danielle Allen re-creates the decline and death of her cousin

Posted: 29 Nov 2017 10:45 AM PST

In her latest book, "Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.," Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen delves into her own family to deliver a powerful memoir and a critique of mass incarceration, the criminal justice system, and the war on drugs. 

In an interview, Allen, the James Bryant Conant University Professor at the Department of Government and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, discussed the book she wrote about her beloved cousin Michael, whose death at age 29 left the family in despair.

Her cousin spent 11 years in jail after he was tried as an adult at age 15 for attempted carjacking in Los Angeles in the 1990s, at the height of a tough-on-crime era that sent millions of African-American men to jail. Michael was released at age 26, but a year later went back to prison and served 14 more months. In 2009, a month after completing parole, Michael was killed by his lover.  

In the interview, Allen spoke with candor about how writing the book helped her and her family understand the circumstances of Michael's life and come to terms with his death.

GAZETTE: You have written books about political philosophy, citizenship, and the Declaration of Independence. This book is very personal. Why did you write it, and for whom?

ALLEN: A few years ago, Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. invited me to give the W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures, and I kept giving him very abstract titles for my prospective lectures: "Race and Justice in the 21st Century," or "Political Equality and African-Americans in the 21st Century," but I also kept deferring the dates. Finally, Gates told me, "You can't keep deferring the dates, Danielle." As I faced the prospect of giving the Du Bois Lectures, where you have the job of saying something about the state of affairs for African-Americans in this country, I realized I just couldn't possibly give those lectures and speak honestly without understanding and sharing my cousin's story. That was why I wrote it, in the first instance. But in working on the book, I also discovered that all the work I've done throughout my intellectual career has in some sense been related to these issues. My first book was on punishment in ancient Athens, and the reason I pursued that topic is because I was so struck by the contrast between Athens and its court records and modern America. In Athens, there was almost no mention of imprisonment as a punishment, and as an undergraduate and a kid from Southern California, I was really surprised by this idea of a democracy that didn't have prisons. In a way, the questions of criminal justice have been with me constantly for my whole intellectual career. And it's only at this point that I've come to deeply understand the way in which the intellectual and the personal are completely entangled.

GAZETTE: And for whom did you write this book?

ALLEN: I wrote it for the Du Bois Lectures originally. But before I started writing the lectures, the first thing I did was to ask my aunt and my cousins for permission. I wrote the book for my family members, and I wrote the book for Michael so that his voice had a way out. We all thought Michael would be able to tell his own story. He was an incredibly talented writer.

GAZETTE: Did you see the book also as an attempt to come to terms with Michael's death?

ALLEN: There are tragedies in every family. Everybody is familiar with the experience of tragedy, and you're just left with the "why?" question. Why did this happen? What could we have done? and so forth. When Michael died in 2009, we just all shut down, we never talked about it, we did not talk about what had happened to him and why. This was a chance, this was the moment to come to grips with what had happened, and why he had ended up dead, why he had been in prison for so long, why he had ended up holding a gun trying to take somebody's car from them. Part of the urge for the book was to have answers to those questions.

GAZETTE: What was your family's reaction to the book?

ALLEN: There are some variations in reaction. My aunt and cousins have been really with me every step of the way. It's been a joint project. I spent a lot of time interviewing them. They read the final version, and they feel really happy that Michael's voice and his story have made it out. I think that for all of us it has been peace-bringing. Further out in the more extended family, there are some people who are uncomfortable with "airing dirty linen." There is that reaction, as well.

GAZETTE: What other challenges did you face in writing this book?

ALLEN: There were a lot. Just getting Michael's court records was hard. I had to file a state-level equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act to get his basic legal documents. Reconstructing Michael's story was hard because people's memories don't align. Eventually, by the time I got the court records, I had been able to reconstruct the story, and the court records validated what I found. But I had to do multiple interviews with family members and found myself effectively cross-examining them to try to clarify the facts. Interviewing my family members was the hardest part. There were lots of tears involved. And then, discovering things about my cousin that I hadn't known was also hard. For me, the hardest detail in the book is the part about his running drugs into the prison while he was a firefighter. I didn't know that until I was doing these interviews.

GAZETTE: How did this new information change the view you had of Michael?

ALLEN: The fact of the matter is that before I started writing the book I did not understand what had happened to my cousin. How a person with his gifts, abilities, resources, and the love of his family could have ended up where he did? I can understand it now. I didn't know until I was working on this book that he had been flirting with gangs when he was 13, 14, and that's what got him into trouble. His mother didn't know. We've all come to understand that from working on the book. Also, I can see parts of his life that were important to him that I did not see before. It was only retrospectively that I understood the importance of his lover Bree in his life. I knew Bree was in his life, but I didn't understand the magnitude of that relationship. Working on the book meant that I went back to all his writings, and then I was able to see the places where he was sharing his love story with me that I hadn't seen originally.

GAZETTE: You said your book tells three stories: the story of Michael's responsibility, the story of Michael's family's responsibility, and the story of society's responsibility. Can you explain?

ALLEN: The first two are easy. Michael made some bad choices. That's very straightforward. We, his family, did not see the small pieces of evidence that would have amounted to a pattern of "This is a kid who is on the verge of getting into big trouble." We didn't see those things. We didn't help him when we should have helped him. And with regard to society, there are a couple of different ways to think about this. Fifteen-year-olds everywhere have boundary-testing impulses, and they're trying to figure out who they are as independent people. Those impulses and behaviors at that stage of life are more dangerous for some young people than others because of where they happen to be. The kinds of danger that are presented to a kid in South Central Los Angeles are not of their own making, and they're not even of their family's making. They are made by society.

My book on the Declaration of Independence taught me this: to scrutinize the health of a society, one of the things you have to scrutinize is how the laws either enable or hinder human flourishing. When you ask that question, and ask about the state of affairs in urban areas and cities, it just becomes blindingly clear that the war on drugs has had a huge distorting effect on our society. A kid growing up in an urban area faces a far different degree of difficulty than a kid in a suburb. And yes, kids in an urban area can master that degree of difficulty, sure they can. But if they don't, they're going to break their back. It's like in gymnastics, the highest-degree-of-difficulty move has the consequence that if you don't get it right, if you don't land well, you can break your neck or your back, whereas the lowest-degree-of-difficulty move, if you miss it, the consequences are not that bad.

GAZETTE: Can you explain the role of race in the criminal justice system?

ALLEN: We all know that drug laws and criminal justice, more generally, have been disproportionally enforced, with African-Americans and Latino-Americans bearing the brunt of the enforcement of the war on drugs. It's certainly the case that the big growth in the criminal system has a racialized component, but I think it's important to recognize that the excessive criminalization we've gotten used to has impact that goes well beyond racial lines. When I gave the Du Bois Lectures, I was surprised by the number of people who came up to me and said, "I've got a family member in prison, as well, and I have never told anybody." And the folks who were coming up to me and saying that were white. The point is that our prison system is so big, it really touches everybody, and the magnitude of our criminalization and penal severity is a problem for everybody, even if its origins were racialized.

GAZETTE: With regard to society's responsibility, what changes could prevent the loss of other young people like Michael?

ALLEN: Some want to focus on juvenile justice reform, which is important, and others want to focus on prison reform and rebuilding the capacity of our penal system to provide rehabilitation and not merely focus on deterrence. That's important too, but my own view is that the single most important thing is to transition our approach of drug control from a criminal justice paradigm to a health paradigm. And what that means is to legalize marijuana across the board and decriminalize harder drugs, which means convert what are felonies for simple use and possession into misdemeanors, while maintaining felonies for trafficking. That way, you could bring drug use out of the shadows so that people can seek treatment.

This has been tried in Portugal, where adolescent drug use has gone down, and more people have sought treatment. Taking the black-market dynamics out of the picture could bring an end to what is a war between the legal state and the other structure made up by cartels, street gangs, and other distributors that are fighting for the $100-billion-a-year drug market. I think that's the thing that people miss. When the state uses probation, penalties, and so forth to tackle drug use and narcotics, it's not as if there hasn't been somebody pushing back on the other side. The folks who are reaping the benefits of this $100 billion business don't want to give up power over their distributors, and so you have a ratcheting up of structures of sanctions and penalties inside the context of gangs, which has been a huge exacerbator of the violence in the cities.

We have helped create the violence in the cities through the way we have prosecuted the war on drugs. To take the violence out of the cities requires ending the war on drugs. It's not a silver bullet because, as economists would say, we're in an equilibrium state now, where there is a high level of violence and a culture of violence attached to it. We can change the laws, and that'll change the incentive structure. We'll still have a culture of violence that needs to be addressed, but you can't address the culture of violence if you haven't changed the underlying incentive structure.

GAZETTE: Going back to the book, how did it evolve during the process of writing it, and what message did you want to get across?

ALLEN: This is a book that I spent a lot of time working on in my head before I put pen to paper. The moment it took its aesthetic form was the moment when the title came to me. The title is a one-word poem. I realized I had to call it "Cuz" because the driver for the book was my need to explain why, and also because Michael used to call me "Cuz." The moment that I had that title, I had the structure for the book. The book is organized as a series of answers to key questions. Another important part was really going back to Michael's own writings and figuring out how to weave his voice and my voice together. That is where the other evolutionary dynamic in the book comes from. It's from knitting together two different voices. The message I wanted to get across is partly the humanity of people who are in prison and the utter devastation that has been wrought by our system of mass incarceration. And the writing was a joy, a complete joy, especially when I went back to Michael's writings and worked them into the book. He was a beautiful spirit.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now